Advocates, district attorney discuss bail reform in Harris County

HOUSTON – Supporters of a proposal to overhaul Harris County's bail system gathered to answer questions from reporters Tuesday in an attempt to address what the move would accomplish and what it would not. 

The meeting took place in a conference room at Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner's Office in southwest Houston. It came in advance of a hearing scheduled for Oct. 28 in federal court. 

Bail system declared unconstitutional 

Harris County Commissioner's Court approved a proposed Consent Decree in July by a vote of 3-2. The decree is a settlement to a federal lawsuit that alleged Harris County discriminated against defendants of low income. The system kept people accused of low-level, often nonviolent, offenses in jail because they could not pay a bond. To the contrary, those with money to make bond were released. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ruled in April 2017 that the county's bail system violated due process and equal protection. 

Judge Rosenthal's decision challenged the county's yearslong system of holding indigent low-level offenders. 

How does the proposed Consent Decree work? 

Under the proposed consent decree, someone arrested for a low-level, nonviolent misdemeanor would be issued a general order bond or a personal recognizance bond. 

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